Mike and Carolyn Lee recently opened Divine Will Catholic Art Books and Gifts at 720 Arkansas Blvd., a shop that sells books, art and gifts pertaining to the Catholic faith.
Photo by Gazette photo by Sara Vaughn
TEXARKANA, Ark. — Mike and Carolyn Lee have desired to share their new Catholic faith by opening a bookstore for about a year, and even in the midst of a pandemic they’ve made good on that hope.
The Lees recently opened Divine Will Catholic Art Books and Gifts at 720 Arkansas Blvd., a shop that provides books, art and gifts such as bibles, rosaries, jewelry, wall art, Spanish language books, missals, statues, confirmation gifts, candles and baby gifts.
As practicing Catholics together, this is new to them. Carolyn explains that her husband was born into a Catholic family but they were not practicing, and he didn’t attend church much in his adult life until they married about two decades ago. Mike recalls going to Catholic church as a youngster.
“I actually went to church with my grandmother mostly,” he recalled. The taxi would show up to take them to 6 a.m. mass every Sunday morning when he visited her. Then following changes in the Catholic church, his grandma kind of lost interest, he recalled.
But it was only in April last year that the Lees joined the Catholic church together.
As new Catholics, they are excited about their faith and want to share this by providing information about Catholicism.
“I feel for people because I was 64 before I became a Catholic, and I knew absolutely knowing about Catholics, being brought up as a Baptist girl and being in the Charismatic church. I had absolutely no clue about anything Catholic,” Carolyn said.
These Texarkana natives aim to help Catholics here and across the region by providing something that’s hard to find in the area.
“That’s what prompted us to want to bring a Catholic bookstore to Texarkana,” Carolyn said.
Mike explains that they knew each other through work here in Texarkana — first at a vacuum cleaner shop on New Boston Road and then in the insurance business — and eventually married 18 years ago.
Carolyn, after watching some YouTube videos about religious subjects, asked him one day if he would consider taking her to mass, Mike recalled.
“We went to mass for her first time, and it kind of hooked her,” he said. Together they started on an educational journey to become involved in the church, including classes and training, then converted last year.
“We went on a trip right after we were confirmed in April of 2019 and visited our first Catholic bookstore, and we just left with a desire to bring that to Texarkana,” Carolyn said. It was like being in a toy or candy store for them. They were impressed by the beauty.
“That’s the thing about the Catholic church is they really try to promote the beauty of God. With their architecture they’ve done that from the very beginning, their art — with the service, with the music, all of that brings beauty, which is what God is. God is love and beauty,” Carolyn said.
They were also getting tired of the insurance business, which they’d worked in for about two decades, and wanted to move on.
“We just decided that you know it would be nice for us if we could do something like open a Catholic bookstore,” Mike said. There wasn’t one near here. They talked with priests at Sacred Heart Catholic Church and the diocese, who’ve all been supportive.
So far, they have not done much advertising, but customers from both sides of Texarkana and out of town have visited the store. Word of mouth is working well for them. They’ve even received a blessing at the store.
“In fact our priests and one of our deacons came over a week ago Monday and blessed our operation here,” Mike said, adding, “So anybody that wants to come in and buy anything from us, it’s blessed already.”
(For more information, call the bookstore at 870-774-0992 or email [email protected])